TAMPA, Fla. - Cities across the nation are inspecting the pipes that go from their water treatment plants to people’s homes, and out of their faucets.
The City of Tampa Water Department says it has been surveying its pipes since 2021 after a $15 billion infrastructure law was passed to replace lead pipes.
"To gather this data of what the lines are made of, we’re gathering historical information, so there’s a lot of information that we have already that we’ve collected over the years, construction records, plumbing regulations of when lead was banned here in the city of Tampa," said Sonia Quinones, a spokesperson for the Tampa Water Department.
On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency issued lead and copper rule improvements, providing additional guidance for the revised rule that came out in 2021.
There are a lot of old homes in Tampa, but the water department says most homeowners should not be too concerned, because of the way the city treats its water before it makes its way to your faucet and into your glass to drink.
"It could be flying through thousands of miles of pipes before it gets into a customer’s home. We treat the water in a way to keep it very neutral, so it won’t have that tendency of creating that chemical reaction that will bring flakes. If they do have lead in their home because it’s an older building, and they haven’t upgraded it yet, it will still be ok," Quinones said.
The Tampa Water Department says it's going to present its initial findings of what its pipes are made of to the EPA in October 2024.
In the meantime, a statistic from an EPA report issued back in April, ranks Florida as one of the highest in the nation with lead pipes. Texas was also high on the list.
It has utility companies and environmental groups scratching their heads, and experts say that data may not be accurate.
"Florida and Texas came out surprisingly high, and we think that a lot of that was the way the EPA calculated the water utilities reported a lot of unknown service lines, the EPA translated a certain percentage of those as being presumed to be lead, which in the case of Florida, doesn’t make a lot of sense because of so much Florida development was when lead pipes were not being widely used," said Erik D. Olson, the senior strategic director for health at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The EPA is going to look back at that data and issue new numbers reflecting the amount of lead pipes per state, said Olson.
He anticipates Florida to have fewer lead pipes than initially reported.